Family: The School of Character

By David Smith – Extract from his research project for the 2019 FMS in Fortaleza, Brazil

As one FMI leader has noted: family is the real Discipleship Training School. Family is the most fruitful context in the world for children to develop the character of Jesus in their lives, to learn true wisdom and acquire the courage necessary to face the storms of life.

Author Andy Crouch observes how the technologies that have become ubiquitous in our homes are ‘easy-everywhere’ technologies. They don’t just help us do things; they do the things for us. They require very little learning to be used; in fact the whole point is that they avoid challenging us in almost any way. He then notes: ‘We are in the midst of the greatest revolution of easy-everywhere the world has even known. And it may just be getting started. That may be fine – It’s just not the best thing for our families. Family is about the forming of persons. It helps form us into persons of wisdom and courage.’

And that wisdom comes precisely from our interacting with one another – for it is in the challenges of relating to each other under one roof that we grow and mature. We see our own foolishness exposed and we learn to be gracious with the foolishness of others. We learn to express our thoughts and deal with them being challenged. We learn to forgive and ask forgiveness. A family where each person spends most of their time in their own virtual world will not achieve this.

We should bear in mind that research in the UK showed that the average seven-year old today will have spent a year of their life looking at a screen. It is estimated that teenagers now spend up to six hours a day in front of some form of small screen, and children as young as 10 now have access to as many as five different screens at home, often watching two or more at a time.

One of Crouch’s strongest recommendations in this regard is to make sure the central space in our houses, the place where we spend most time as a family, is as tech free as possible. He writes: ‘Find the room where your family spends most time and ruthlessly eliminate the things that ask little of you and develop little in you. Move the TV to a less central location –and ideally a less comfortable one. And fill the space that is left over with opportunities for creativity and skill, beauty and risk… Make the place where we spend the most time the place where easy everywhere is hardest to find. This… all by itself is a powerful antidote to consumer culture…It’s an invitation to creating culture – finding joy in shaping something useful or beautiful out of the raw material of the world.’

In the nerve centre of our families, technology should be, as far as is possible, a visitor but not a permanent resident.

 

The full document including the proper references is available under Resources.

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